It’s Time

by Kathy Larson

March 30, 2020

The struggle continues. COVID-19 rages on, and the world is – except for Brazil – on lockdown.

Trump and Bolsonaro, best buds. Bolsonaro is an unchecked dictator, whereas, thank God and any other deities you can think of, Trump is a wannabe dictator who is in check.

But I did not come here today to write about the pandemic. No, today I came here to write about anything else but.

So, here it is: Candles.

I am reading an article from a December issue of Canadian Living magazine about candles. How they’re made, what makes a good candle, wax formulations, the scents and essences used, and the different types of wicks employed. Who knew a candle could be so complex?

In addition to the CL article I have also recently read a short piece in a Martha Stewart Living mag that touched briefly on the art of candles. Now, of course, this is Martha Stewart, so I was expecting a little bit of extravagance in relation to the candles represented.

But it was the CL article that blew my mind.

The cheapest candle mentioned in their article was $35. The most expensive was $150. In the MSL article they mentioned candles from Bath and Body Works (reasonably priced at around $22) and went up to a high of $110 (US $, I’m presuming).

I love candles. Always have. From the time I was a teenager and bought my first sand candle. Remember those? Wax was poured into sand moulds — some very intricate — and dyed in incredible colour combinations. They were funky and cool and nobody burned them.

Eventually, I had a big collection of them. Years later they would, sadly, wind up in the garbage. Why did I throw them out? Wax does not go bad, but, what did I know. All I recall is that they had become tacky and dusty with age and I did not want them around anymore.

Candles make a perfect gift, both to give and to receive. They are nice to tuck into a small hostess gift, or to give to someone you don’t know well, or, even better, to someone you do know extremely well. You can’t go wrong with a candle — it’s not like giving a bottle of red and then finding out that your recipient only drinks white, or doesn’t — gasp! — drink wine at all.

All the candles I’ve been given over the years (since the sad sand candles, that is) have met the match. I burn them and I delight in them. The soft flickering of a flame in a dim room, the delicate scent of lavender, and sandalwood, of bergamot and lime, can instill in me a sense of peace and calm like nothing else is able to.

That said, I would NEVER pay $150 for a candle! I don’t care if it is hand-poured, that the wax is derived from apricot kernels, or that the scent is made from sustainably harvested ingredients and lovingly distilled according to ages-old traditions. It’s a candle! It’s going to burn! Those scents are fleeting! And you’re still left with a cheap glass or porcelain container that you won’t know what the hell to do with but you can’t throw out because that would just be wrong.

A candle is one of the simplest things there is on this earth. It’s wax and a wick with maybe a little scent thrown in. Regardless of the price, they’re all going to burn when lit. I can’t imagine I’d feel very peaceful watching a $150 candle burn — that would be like watching money go up in smoke.

So, I’ll continue to buy Yankee brand candles, Bath and Body Works candles, and candles from The Body Shop when they are on sale. I’ll buy candles from small craft fairs, farmer’s markets, and local artisans quaint little shops. I’ll buy them as souvenirs, as gifts, and as odor-eliminators for my bathrooms. I will burn them on a cold winter night while bundled in a cozy blanket, or on a beautiful summer evening with soft breezes caressing my cooling skin as we enjoy a glass of wine on the deck.

As interesting and informative as the Canadian Living and Martha Stewart Living articles were, all I really learned is that there are people out there who are willing to pay ridiculous prices for something just so they can say they did.

Not me, though.

If you care to, please answer this question: Would you pay over $50 for a candle, and why?

Waiting for the Morning Address

by Kathy Larson

March 25, 2020

Here I sit on this gorgeous early Spring morning. It’s going to warm up to one or two degrees (C) today and I am looking forward to getting out for a nice long walk in the fresh air later this afternoon. It’s about the only thing I have to look forward to these days in the midst of social distancing because of COVID 19.

While I wait for that bright spot in my day I am also waiting for our Prime Minister to make his daily address. I am not a huge fan of JT, but I do admire that he has taken to speaking to the country on a daily basis. He is doing a good job of leading us through this unprecedented time — unlike the bozo south of the border.

Mr. Trudeau has provided an anchor of calm and reason — though sometimes he comes off sounding a little too much like an annoyed and angry parent admonishing his children — “If I have to tell you one more time to stay home. . .!” But then again, if people were acting more like responsible adults and less like willful children, he wouldn’t have to take that surly tone.

Compare that to the message Donald Trump is delivering. He sounds petulant, he spreads false information, he encourages flouting the best medical advice given by his own professionals, and now, not even two weeks into this pandemic hitting America’s shores, he is telling people that “America will be open for business sooner rather than later.” Along with that irresponsible message he has also included another, far more dire and potentially dangerous: He has publicly stated that Americans are going to start committing suicide by the thousands if businesses don’t reopen.

The power of suggestion, Mr. Trump.

What kind of a leader says such a thing? Especially when people are at their most vulnerable. Like a vast majority of the thinking world I am baffled that this cretin has a faithful following. That there are those who think he is doing a good job, that he is actually ‘making America great again’. Nothing could be further from the truth. He is making America a laughingstock and a pariah on the world stage.

Mr. Trudeau, in contrast, offers informed, practical and constructive information and support to the people he leads. Daily, he puts himself out there to provide a picture of steadfast and confident leadership. He talks about helping people through this crisis, about supporting businesses and municipalities, about getting supplies and support to front line workers and to making sure that people don’t fall through the cracks and wind up in situations where the idea of suicide may seem like the only possible solution.

Mr. Trudeau is not the political leader I had hoped for when I voted in the last election, but I am grateful that he is there each morning at 9:15. His calm and poise helps give me a sense of hope and makes this difficult period of social distancing a little easier to bear. He makes me proud to be Canadian, and so, so grateful that I live in the greatest country in the world.

Home-bound

by Kathy Larson

March 19, 2020

So, we’ve been social-distancing and semi-self-isolating for four days now. Honestly, it hasn’t been that much of a change in normal for me. I stay in most days, happy to read or crochet or dabble at writing. I get the housework and laundry done, listen to music, do a crossword puzzle, maybe go for a walk if it’s not too cold. The aquafit classes I attended were my biggest social outings, but that was only two or three times a week. Walking/jogging on the indoor track at Mac Island, though done in the company of others, was also, mostly solitary. With my headphones on I cruised around the oval for 45 minutes then took myself down to Second Cup for a honey tea latte, half-sweet. Please and thank you.

I don’t care to shop — never have. Going to movies is fun, but costly, so we don’t do a lot of that. Eating in restaurants tends to be disappointing, so don’t miss that, and we’re past the age where going out to the bar or a nightclub is even a consideration. Once in a blue moon we’d go to the casino and lose a hundred dollars, but, again, not something we do on a regular basis.

Sadly, neither of us volunteers anymore, so we have nothing to miss on that score. I keep saying I’m going to find something to volunteer for, but haven’t yet, and now, with COVID-19 in our lives most opportunities have disappeared.

It’s funny, when our son was young and I worked full-time and had a busier social life I volunteered a lot. Both my husband and I did. We were always engaged in some community group or other and it never seemed like we were overwhelmed. Now when I think of the time I’d have to commit to something I find all kinds of excuses and reasons why I’d rather not. Maybe that’s just age. I don’t know. I do know when this is over that I’m going to have to change my thinking.

I tried the online grocery order thing. From Superstore. Because of the current state of things I got less than half of what I had ordered. No toilet paper, no chicken, and most shocking — no chocolate bar! Oh, and the bag of avocados was rotten. The process was pretty easy, actually, and I’d definitely try it again. Say, perhaps, when we’re getting back from a holiday. Some day. In the future. When the coronavirus is no more.

After picking up my half-order of groceries from SS I drove over to Save-On to see if they had what I wanted. They did, though it was considerably more costly than SS. We are now well stocked with toilet paper, chicken and giant bottles for water — just in case.

Save-On had some lovely ahi tuna steaks in their meat section so that’s what we had for supper last night. Maple-mustard glazed tuna steaks (get the recipe here: https://cooktoria.com/ahi-tuna-steak/) with sweet potato oven fries and a fresh salad. Yum.

Being sequestered at home at first seemed like A BIG DEAL. For us, really, it’s not. We watch a couple of shows in the evening, play a couple of card games, then head upstairs to bed around 10:30. Nothing different from our normal routine. Other than the ever-present reality that we can’t go anywhere simply because we want to.

I can see isolation being tougher on families with small children, those with medical problems, those with addiction problems, those with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues. My heart goes out to them, but that is all. This virus makes it virtually impossible to do anything other than sympathize.

It’s hard to think of anything positive during this global crisis, but if there is anything good at all to be gleaned from it, it is this: Maybe, with all this time for reflection and self-reflection, there will be a returning to the meaning and importance of family and community. By being forced together maybe people will discover, or, re-discover, the simple joy of time well spent in one another’s company. That’s not going to happen for everyone — that would be fantasy — but if it happens at all it is something definitely worth celebrating.

Just sittin’ around doin’ nothin’

by Kathy Larson

March 10, 2020

All those apostrophes are rather annoying, now that I see them when I look up from the screen. Ah, well, too bad. There they will stay.

I’m in a funny mood today. Not bored, exactly, not blue, either, just sort of blah or bleck. Don’t know how else to say it — other than my mood matches the day, which is grey and a bit windy with ice slowly melting from the eaves.

I took a night-time Aleve last night when I went to bed because I had an incredibly sore right shoulder and arm and I wound up sleeping til 9 o’clock this morning. Never a good start to the day for me. I like to be up between 7 and 7:30 — it gives me the illusion of feeling PRODUCTIVE. Though, mostly, I’m not.

I may get a little writing in. I may go for a walk. I may plan what we’re going to have for supper. I may write a letter to someone. I may text one of my sisters, or call my mom. I may decide to have lunch with my husband or go do a little grocery shopping. The possibilities are absolutely endless.

As I sit here typing this I’m also thinking about our upcoming trip home. We will leave tomorrow night and make the 5 hour drive home to Bon Accord. I’m looking forward to possibly seeing my son and his family — though chances are they’ll be busy. We were expecting company for the weekend, but the coronavirus and unpredictability of March weather has put an end to that. So, it will be a quiet weekend, most likely spent watching hockey. Go Canucks!

This back and forth between Fort Mac and Bon Accord has been going on for five years and I am ready for it to be over. I want to live in one place — my home in Bon Accord. I want to watch the snow melt from my gardens, I want to sit in the spring sunshine on my deck and enjoy an early morning coffee with home-made Irish cream generously poured. I want to wake to the sounds of magpies and blue jays fighting in the big pine outside my bedroom window. I want to see the crocus in bloom, I want to hear the frogs creaking and croaking from the lagoon across the road. I want to hear the beautiful, soul stirring sound of the sand hill cranes as they wing their way northward as I toil in the cool, moist earth of my gardens.

I want, I want, I want.

I guess that’s why I’m feeling as I do today.

Giving in to Hysteria

by Kathy Larson

March 9, 2020

I was all set to go to the pool today, but after watching the morning news I’ve changed my mind.

Coronavirus or COVID-19 is the reason. I don’t normally get easily spooked by things like this, but I’m thinking maybe this time I’d be right to avoid any unnecessary exposure.

The public pool/recreation center at MacDonald Island here in Fort McMurray is world class. Among its many features is an Olympic size pool, massive whirlpool, and water slides. Like all public swimming pools it is constantly busy with lessons, classes and just casual drop-ins looking for a little escape from the daily grind. The staff who work there are also fantastic, and they work very hard to keep the facility clean and safe.

But.

People in Fort McMurray travel. A lot. There is an extremely high population of immigrants in this area and they frequently travel back and forth between their northern Canadian home and their birth countries. Those who are not part of the immigrant population tend to travel as well. If they are not workers from another province travelling back and forth for work, then they are permanent residents seeking a respite from the solitariness and seclusion of life in a northern city with not much to do except stare at the snow. Any day I am at the pool I overhear people talking about their latest trip.

Call me paranoid, but with more cases of the novel-coronavirus surfacing daily in Alberta I don’t think congregating in public places is a very good idea. Especially in a place where people have exposed themselves to the risk of contracting such a virus. So, I’m going to take a pass on my aquafit classes for a while. I’m also going to avoid shopping malls, and large public gatherings of any kind. I’ll try to keep my grocery shopping to a minimum, though I’m not going to resort to stock-piling toilet paper or hand-sanitizer. All that nonsense just makes me shake my head.

Instead I’ll practice common sense and hopefully wait this crisis out.

I wish everyone could do the same. It’s not possible, I know; the world has to keep on keeping on, after all. Kids need to go to school, moms and dads need to go to work, goods and services have to get delivered. I hope, for all our sake, that this virus is nearing the end of its life cycle and that life can soon return to normal. In the meantime, we should take whatever common sense precautions we can to prevent the spread of this virus from getting worse. If that means missing a pool day, then so be it.

I am going to miss my pool days; this self-imposed restriction is only temporary, getting sick and possibly dying is not.

I Can’t Help Smiling at the Absurdity of It

by Kathy Larson

I go to aquafit classes usually twice a week. I enjoy it. The warm water, the exercise, the feeling that I’m doing something good for myself and the camaraderie and companionship of other women my age.

Most of us, not all, though, are in our 60s, if not older. There are few younger girls — Russian, or Eastern European, I think. (There are quite a few of them, and it makes me wonder what they are doing here in Fort McMurray. They speak very little English and tend to stay in their tight little groups, but that’s another story.) Also, we’ve got a few older, retired gents amongst us, but I don’t talk to them. (They have their own little exclusive group.)

Our instructor is young, extremely energetic and loud. I think she must have been in the military at one time, because she can command us to do things from her spot up on the pool deck and we unflinchingly obey. “Come on, people,” she barks, “keep those shoulders back and those heads still. No leaning!” and “White water, white water! I want to see that water moving around you!” To be fair, she does all this with a smile and we love her.

She plays music for our classes — loudly — and this is where the absurdity for me comes in. Sometimes it’s oldies — music from the 50s and 60s. There are the mixes that Sarah puts together herself, the latest, hottest hits that most of us don’t have a clue about. Other times it’s actual pre-packaged work-out mixes with covers of hits from every generation — the equivalent of elevator music, only for the pool. It is these mixes that strike me as hysterical.

Imagine Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy, Sam Smith’s Dancing with a Stranger, Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road or Lady Gaga’s Shallow remixed and sped up so that a bunch of gray-hairs can get their groove on in the pool. It’s hilarious! Every time I hear Billie Eilish’s gravelly, ultra-cool, extremely young voice singing the words to Bad Guy I just about bust a gut. Does she know that they’ve re-marketed her song in this way? Do any of them know?

And this is where the grumpy, cynical old lady in me shows herself. I’m 100 percent sure they do. No matter how cool any of these artists are — these rappers and gangsters and hip-hoppers, these fresh faces and up and comers — they are all in it for the money.

They may have started out with lofty ideals and strong convictions about their particular unique-ness and visions, but let’s face it — once your music has made it on to a mix tape for ‘old’ people exercising in a public pool — all of that becomes moot.

For the record: I like Bad Guy. Even more absurd: My husband has downloaded a sound-bite of it on his phone as a ring tone.

I can just imagine the reaction of 15 year-olds the world over realizing that their grandparents are listening to their music and liking it.

March 6, 2020

Here I go again. . .

Something happened. I haven’t felt like writing for over 3 years. It feels like I’ve lost a piece of myself. But. . .I don’t have the determination to find it and get it back.

Lately, I’ve been trying to force myself into writing. I’ve entered a couple of free contests, I’ve done tons of ‘research’ and read a gazillion winning entries of said contests, but still, I haven’t felt that spark.

I miss the spark. I miss how excited I used to get at the prospect of finding time to write. To pigeon-holing that time just for me. Now, I’ve got all the time I could possibly want. I’m retired. And the last thing I ever do is make time for writing. Maybe it wasn’t the writing that excited me, after all, maybe it was the selfish pursuit of time I could claim as just my own.

Throughout my day I find myself thinking of things I could write about, things I’m passionate about. Rarely, though, do I have the tools with me necessary for writing when these thoughts occur. So, I think I’ll hold on to them until I’m at the computer or have a pen and paper, but by the time I get around to it those thoughts have gone. So, I do a crossword puzzle. Or crochet. Or make something to eat.

No spark.

I want to write. I love to write. Why can’t I want to love to write?

Maybe, writing here will help. I’ll see.

Fingers on keyboard, words on screen, match to flame. Spark.